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Archives for : Poetry

#IndependenceDayIndia, a poem of ‘Unfreedom’ by Ramu Ramanathan



And who are you?
Asks, she, in Gondi
What do you want?
She doesn’t trust
Outsiders like me
Who smile in Hindi
And scowl in English

That night
The hills echoed a Dorli song
About Jal, Jangal, Zameen
A thousand year old tune
Hummed by
Veer Narayan Singh
One last time
In 1857
Till he was hung

Now those words
In Gondi and Dorli
Want to be resurrected
And tell the tale
Of precious ores
Manufactured in international factories
To create an amalgamation of alloys
Offered at a special discount rate
In the bloody memory of a million Adivasis

By Ramu Ramanathan inspired by 12/8 BSN seminar ‘Embattled Bastar: Seeking Answers

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The Relegation Of Tagore: BJP is now Lynching India’s History

by Ananya Guha

It is learnt that the latest wrath has fallen upon Rabindranath Tagore and by who else but by lacqueys of the powers that be. It is both not surprising and surprising as well. One felt that a man of his stature, Tagore would have been spared of the wrath. Not surprising because such protagonists have never tried to make the word culture truly interpretative. They view it only in terms of religion. They refuse to understand that culture is also broad mindedness, visionary and all embracing. If they had read Tagore’s ” Religion Of Man ” they perhaps would have grasped a little of Tagore’s nuanced philosphy of life and his crafted take on the unity of life and the world.

One worry is, why has this stand off taken place? Is it because of Tagore’s views on a transcendent nationalism? Or is it because of his closeness to Nehru? Or is it because that Tagore was ‘ untouched ‘ by the fervour of the nationalist movement? Tagore was indeed influenced by it but he was a man in whom there were multiple cross currents of the creative energy. In fact he believed that the creative and the spiritual meeged, and in believing in this he was influenced by both Vedic and Upanishadic thought. His belief in supra nationalism was a transcendent vision of one mankind. By relegating Tagore’s visionary dreams to backwaters it is philistinism of the worst kind.

In such situations what is our impelling stance.?. Read him properly, be led by his genius and the infinite power of his creative energy, his super abundant energy and zest for life, driven by passion to coalesce philosophy, poetry, politics, dance, religion with life in totality and composite.

The surplus in life was to him the creative energy ? Isn’t such surplus akin to the religious fervour outlined in ‘ our’ religious or sacred texts? Tagore’s view of life was dual. treble, but there was an overarching unity. This unity was vision of the spirit. True he did not advocate self abnegation, but only in moderation.To catch a glimpse of his creativity is to understand the eternal, the fixity of flux and the inner creative spirit of man. Such is his unity and the unity of the cosmos.

Young minds should try and position themselves in the vision of Tagore, a grand design of truth and harmony, of special relevance in today’s sundered and dissipated world, violence ridden. If Gandhi was the advocate of political freedom Tagore was that of freedom pushed by creative energy and the indomitable spirit of wisdom.

Tagore differed with Gandhi but revered him. Tagore taught us this telling truth, that, in midst of divergence of views there can also be mutual respect.

This is what young people and students should know and learn. But our political savants want hierarchy and superiority of cultures.

Lynching the past seems to be a favourite trouble baiting past time today. Marauding the historically significant another past time. What happens when this is done? We evict history, the past and the subliminal out of its roots. We blacken the past and deprive young minds not only knowledge but to debate and be arbiters in truth, justice and discussion.

It is not a question of alienating a community or the other. It is a question of alienating the truth, the younger generation, students and indeed the entire world, depriving them of the knowledge of one of the most outstanding Indian minds of the twentieth century.How do we change such superannuated thinking is the biggest challenge for thinkers and teachers?

The Bengali claim that Tagore belongs to them is not true. Tagore’s thoughts, his indomitable creative urge, his resonance of the spirit of man belongs to the entire world, manifest in a renaissance and embodying all the finer nuances of creativity.

Let us not politicize this and make creativity a machination for unscrupulous zealots.

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मोदी जी – मेरा कुछ सामान तुम्हारे पास पड़ा है #Poem

by Darab Farooqui

मेरे कुछ बुरे दिन तुम्हारे पास पड़े है – 2
भाईचारे से कुछ भीगे दिन रखे हैं
और मेरे इक आह में लिपटी आस पड़ी है
वो आस भुला दो, मेरा वो सामान लौटा दो – 2
मेरे कुछ बुरे दिन तुम्हारे पास पड़े है – 2

दंगे मोदी जी… याद है ना ?
ओ ! दंगों में कुछ लाशों के गिरने की आहट
कानों में एक बार पहन के लौट आई थी
दंगो का वो खौफ़ अभी तक कांपा रहा है
वो कपकपी भुला दो, मेरे वो बुरे दिन लौटा दो – 2

हम अपनी ग़रीबी में जब आधे आधे भीग रहे थे – 2
आधे भरे आधे भूखे, भरा तो मैं ले आयी थी
भूखा पेट शायद, दरवाज़े के पास पड़ा हो !
वो भिजवा दो, मेरे वो बुरे दिन लौटा दो – 2

60 साल कांग्रेस की भूखी रातें, और तुम्हारे ये तीन साल – 2
अच्छे दिनों के ये वादे, झुठ-मूठ के शिकवे कुछ
झूठ-मूठ के वादे सब याद करा दूँ
सब भिजवा दो, मेरे वो बुरे दिन लौटा दो – 2

मेरे कुछ बुरे दिन तुम्हारे पास पड़े है – 2
भाईचारे से कुछ भीगे दिन रखे हैं
और मेरे इक आह में लिपटी आस पड़ी है
वो आस भुला दो, मेरा वो सामान लौटा दो – 2
मेरे कुछ बुरे दिन तुम्हारे पास पड़े है – 2

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Love in the Time of Hate: Verse and Dance Reclaim Streets of Delhi #Culturalactivism

Iss zulm mein jo khamosh rahe,
Zaalim bhi wahi, qatil bhi wahi

Twenty-three-year-old Sabika Naqvi is reciting a poem in protest against mob lynching in the middle of Connaught Place, New Delhi. “Those who stay silent are oppressors and killers too, those who want to walk away and take no responsibility are party to the injustice”, she warns. Syncing her feet to Sabika’s verses is Anannya Chatterjee, also 23.

Sabika’s poetry and Annanya’s Bharatnatyam have stopped a hundred or so passersby in their tracks on a Saturday evening. The circle of onlookers watches on in rapt attention as the two young artistes plead them to spread love in these times of hate.

Sabika Naqvi recites, “Those who stay silent in these times of violence are oppressors and killers too.”
Sabika Naqvi recites, “Those who stay silent in these times of violence are oppressors and killers too.” (Photo: The Quint)

The crowd is a composite one – from idle cabbies to shoppers with toddlers in tow. Sabika’s verses address them not on the basis of age, class, caste or creed. But as human beings. She asks:

Is it so easy to hate each other? After a Facebook post or a tweet, or because of a fistful of meat?

(Photo: The Quint)

Those assembled know the cases all too well. From Dadri’s Akhlaq to Basirhat’s Kartik Ghosh, from Hafiz Junaid in Ballabgarh to Pehlu Khan in Alwar and Ayub Pandith in Srinagar – mob lynchings are the new normal.

On ‘Hunted – India’s Lynch Files’, The Quint records incidents of mob violence across the country. 25 people have been lynched since September 2015.
On ‘Hunted – India’s Lynch Files’, The Quint records incidents of mob violence across the country. 25 people have been lynched since September 2015. (Photo: Screengrab/The Quint)

View the entire list of victims here: Hunted – India’s Lynch Files.

Protest Through Poetry and a Dance for Dissent

On being asked about the message she wishes to spread through this protest performance, Sabika replied, “We will spread more love than those dividing us can spread hate. Poetry is the only weapon I have. We don’t have sticks and stones. We will fight through our poems and our ghungroos.”

If news of hate keeps increasing, then time will question us poets. On our silence. 
If news of hate keeps increasing, then time will question us poets. On our silence.  (Photo: The Quint)

The following is an excerpt from Sabika and Annanya’s performance, with translations.

Kyun aaj pyaar mushkil,
Nafrat asaan
Why is love so difficult,
And hate so easy today?

Sadak par kiss karna mushkil,
Lynch karna asaan

So difficult to kiss on the road
But lynching, so easy.

Aisa nahi hai ke hum pyaar nahi kartey,
Kartey hain

Magar sirf apne jaison se
Apne mazhab ke, apni jaat ke,
Apne khuda se

You know, we love, we love a lot
But only those who are like us
From our religion, our caste
Who believe in our gods
That is it.

Ab aap batayein kya zyada mushkil hai
Mohabbat ya nafrat?
Chhura ghopna ya galey lagana?
Muskurana ya phail machana?
Gaali sunana ya gaane gaana
Logon ko desh se baahar bhagana ya mehmaan bulana

For I really want to know,
What is easier?
Love or hate?
A stab in the chest or a warm hug?
A smile or a slur?
Abuse or songs of love?
Throwing people out of your country (and home and heart) or inviting them over?

Aaj ruuh se poochcho
Badan toh hai, magar kya ruuh insaan hai?
Ask your soul today,
Your flesh is surely human, but is your soul human too?

Camera: Athar Rather
Video Editor: Purnendu Pritam

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A Hindu’s battle to preserve Urdu #mustread

In four years, Rekhta has become the largest online repository for Urdu poetry and literature in the world, says Veenu Sandhu.
Illustration: Dominic Xavier/


The lawns of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts in Delhi were choc-a-bloc over three days last February.

There were men and women, young and old, in silks and pashminas. There were students in ripped jeans and loafers. And, there were children.

They were here for Jashn-e-Rekhta that had drawn in poets, artistes, litterateurs and singers from India and Pakistan to celebrate the lyrical beauty of Urdu.

The festival had expected about 2,500 visitors — more than 85,000 turned up.

Jashn-e-Rekhta, the third edition of which was held from February 17-19, is the result of one man’s passion for what he describes as the language of love.

Its seed was unknowingly planted five years ago by Sanjiv Saraf, who, after building a global business venture, Polyplex, set out on a quest to learn Urdu so that he could read its rich poetry, ashar and ghazals, in their original script.

“An ustad would come home to teach me,” says Saraf, 58, soft spoken and almost self-effacing.

During this process, he also started searching for material online and found an appalling paucity of good-quality Urdu poetry and text. There were errors, too: ghazals wrongly attributed to a poet or couplets incorrectly reproduced and translated.

“I knew there would be thousands like me who are attracted to Urdu poetry but cannot read the language and, therefore, don’t have access to a large part of our heritage,” says the IIT-Kharagpur alumnus.

‘Three years ago, we felt that the website was pulling in people who are interested in Urdu, but we weren’t taking Urdu to the people. We felt we should showcase Urdu in its multifaceted splendour, because this is the only Indian language that lends itself to so many different art forms.’

By now, Polyplex, which he had started in 1988 after leaving the family business of mining and metallurgy, was a well-established company that had branched out to Thailand, Turkey and North America. He handed its affairs to his team of professionals and, on January 11, 2013, started a website that would be an authentic archive of Urdu literature.

He called it Rekhta, which literally means both ‘scattered’ and ‘mixed’ — a language that is a creative blend of various dialects. The Urdu that we know today, he explains, has, in the past, been known by several names: Hindavi, Hindi, Dehlavi, Gujari, Deccani and Rekhta.

In four years,, which is part of the Rekhta Foundation, has become the largest online repository for Urdu poetry and literature in the world.

Available on the website for free are over 25,000 ghazals and nazms by about 2,300 poets and 23,000 Urdu e-books (another 1,200 to 1,500 are being added every month).

The content in is Urdu, Devanagari and Roman scripts and comes with a built-in dictionary. Click on any word and you have its meaning right there.

Ghalib, Mir, Faiz, Zauq, Momin, classical poets, women poets, young poets, poet audios, ghazals rendered by different singers (Begum Akhtar, Mehdi Hassan, Talat Mahmood, Malika Pukhraj, Iqbal Bano) — it is all here, with the oldest poet dating back to the 13th century: Amir Khusro.

It started with a team of five-odd people.

Today, about 60 people work on the project full-time. Among them are students and research scholars.

The Rekhta office in Noida resides in the same building where Polyplex is located. Only now, instead of Polyplex, Saraf spends 14 hours a day at Rekhta.

“I live here,” he says, waving at the editorial section.

It’s an airy floor with large windows and lots of natural light.

A spacious hall with minimal furniture and large posters of Jashn-e-Rekhta leads into the editorial section where people are engrossed in work, sifting, keying in or correcting content for the website or linking videos from YouTube with ghazals.

In another room, another mammoth task is on: digitising books written in Urdu.

Saraf gets messages from people from Pakistan, ‘who are surprised that something like this is happening sarhad paar (across the border) and is being spearheaded by a Hindu,’ he says laughing.

The pages of some have gone yellow with age. Some are moth-eaten and in an irrevocable state of decay.

Among those digitised is the 42nd special edition copy of Deewan-e-Meer. Only 100 such copies, which had Mulk Raj Anand and Sardar Jafri as editors, exist.

“We would source books for our website, but several old ones would not be available,” says Saraf. They would be lying in people’s personal libraries scattered around the country or being sold in old Urdu book bazaars — thus came the idea of digitising whatever book they could lay their hands on.

A scanning machine was imported from the US, “but we soon realised that one machine was grossly inadequate.”

Now there are 17 machines deployed around the country: in government and private libraries like Delhi’s JamiaHamdardUniversity, GhalibAcademy, and in Hyderabad, Mumbai, Lucknow, Allahabad and Rampur. Every Sunday, someone from Rekhta heads out to the Urdu Bazaar in Delhi and returns with a few cartons of books that are then digitised.

It is a painstaking process that has resulted in a humungous online collection of Urdu writers, ancient and contemporary. Take, for example, Saadat Hasan Manto. Under his name are 58 e-books, 106 videos, 271 short stories and 59 dramas.

The office also has a poetry recording and performance studio.

It is not surprising that Saraf’s website now draws in a million and a quarter visitors every month from around the world. “Rekhta has taken a form of its own,” says Saraf, who has the ghazals and couplets on his fingertips.

Jashn-e-Rekhta, in a way, emerged from Rekhta, the website.

“Three years ago, we felt that the website was pulling in people who are interested in Urdu, but we weren’t taking Urdu to the people,” says Saraf. “We felt we should showcase Urdu in its multifaceted splendour, because this is the only Indian language that lends itself to so many different art forms.”

This edition of Jashn-e-Rekhta had, besides panel discussions, musical performances, qawwalimushairadastangoi (story-telling), calligraphy, an Urdu bazaar, film screenings — “Remember, Urdu was once the language of our movies?” — and a food festival inspired by the language.

Film maker Imtiaz Ali, who attended Jashn-e-Rekhta last year, describes Saraf as “a very practical person, who has a certain visionary quality in the way he is going about the festival”. He adds: “There is a significant drift in the festival to show that the language does not belong to a particular religion.”

This is precisely the thought Saraf pushes. He gets messages from people from Pakistan, “who are surprised that something like this is happening sarhad paar (across the border) and is being spearheaded by a Hindu,” he says laughing.

‘I knew there would be thousands like me who are attracted to Urdu poetry but cannot read the language and, therefore, don’t have access to a large part of our heritage.

Prithvi Haldea of Prime Database, a friend of 30 years and another Urdu enthusiast, says it’s difficult to think of Rekhta without Saraf.

Haldea, 66, also handed over the charge of his company to his son to start the Ibaadat Foundation that aims to promote Urdu poets and poetry by organising events around a particular poet. Saraf is one of the Ibaadat trustees.

“We have intense discussions, even debates, on which poet or lyricist to showcase and what songs to present,” says Haldea.

No doubt events such as these require funds, as does running the Rekhta website.

Jashn-e-Rekhta is not a sponsored event, a fact that Ali says appeals to him immensely. “It is unbranded, so you don’t have to publicise or tilt in favour of the brand sponsoring it,” he says.

“So far,” says Saraf, “I have been going with a begging bowl to friends, relatives and friends of friends to chip in for it. The rest I pay from my pocket.”

Rekhta, the website, too, has been running on personal funds.

“Rekhta is a substantial clean break from my business past,” he says. “This will be my true legacy.”

Veenu Sandhu


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Haan Maine Gujarat Ka Manzar Dekha Hai – हाँ…..मैंने गुजरात का मंजर देखा है….. #poem

Image result for Haan Maine Gujraat Ka Manzar Dekha Hai
Khoon Mein Dooba, Ang Ka Paikar Dekha Hai,.
Zakhmi Zakhmi Ek Kabutar Dekha Hai,.
Jalti Haweli Jalta Chapar Dekha Hai,.
Haan Maine Gujrat Ka Manzar Dekha Hai,.

Naam Mera Mazloom Hai, Main Ek Lardki Hoon,.
Jo Dekha Hai Maine, Wo Batlaati Hoon,.
GHar Ghar Aag Lagaai Hai, Gaddaron Ne,.
Izzat Looti Dharm Ke Theke Daaron Ne,.

Dharti Pe Shaitaano Ka Lashkar Dekha Hai,.
Haan Maine Gujrat Ka Manzar Dekha Hai,.

Sharm Se Gardan, Dhaamp Rakhi Hai Haiwaano Ne,.
Aisa Ghinona Khel, Rachaa Insaano Ne,.
Koi Dareenda, Bhi Na Kare, Wo Kaam Kiya,.
Maa Ke Pait Ko Cheer Ke Bachcha Maar Diya,.

Masoomo KO Talwaaron Par Dekha Hai,.
Haan Maine Gujrat Ka Manzar Dekha Hai,.

Aaine Ki Aard Mein Sab Patthar Dil The,.
Wardi Mein Bhi Masoomon Ke Katil The,.
Bachche Peer Jawaanon Ke Sar Kaat Diye,.
Insaano Ke Khoon Se Dariya Baant Diye,.

Aankhon Ne Laashon Ka Samader Dekha Hai,.
Haan Maine Gujrat Ka Manzar Dekha Hai,.

Jisne Dekha Manzar Aag Ugalta Hua,.
Jisne Dekha Ghar waalon KO Jalta Hua,.
Leke Shole Wo Bhi Nikal Aaye Na Kahin,.
Rukh Tasweer Ka Ulta Ho Jaaye Na Kahin,.

Sheeshe Ki Aankhon Mein Patthar Dekha Hai,.
Haan Maine Gujrat Ka Manzar Dekha Hai,.

-Shabeena Adeeb

​खून ​

में डूबा…..




जखमें जखमें अेक कबूतर देखा है
जलती हवेली….जलता छप्पर देखा है….
हाँ…..मैं ने गुजरात का मंजर देखा है..
नाम मेरा मजलूम है, मैं एक लडकी हूँ..
जो देखा है मैं ने…..वो बतलाती हूँ…..
घर घर आग लगाई हैं इन गद्दारों ने
इज्जत लूँटी है धर्म के ठेकेदारों ने…
धरती पे शैतानों का लश्कर देखा है…
हाँ मैं ने गुजरात का मजर देखा है….शर्म से गर्दन कम कर ली हैवानों ने
ऐसा घिनौना खेल रचा इन्सानों ने…
कोई दरिन्दा ही न करें, वो काम किया
माँ के पेट को चीर के बच्चा मार दिया…
माँ को माँ को तलवारों पर देखा है…
हाँ मैं ने गुजरात का मंजर देखा है…..

और आईनों की ताक में सब पत्थर दिल थे…
वर्दी में भी मासूमों के कातिल थे…
बच्चे, पीर, जवानों के सर काट दिये
इन्सानों के खून से दरिया पाट दिये
आँखोे से लाशों का समंदर देखा है……
हाँ…. मैं ने गुजरात का मंजर देखा है….

शबीना आदीब


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Out of prison, Kabir Kala Manch members campaign against farmer distress

Freedom Song

Written by Chandan Haygunde |

kabir kala manch, maharashtra cultural orgn, indian expressNote of protest: Ramesh Gaichor (left) and Sagar Gorkhe of Kabir Kala Manch. (Photo: Sandeep Daundkar)

On a drum is written, in a bright red font, the story that Ramesh Gaichor, 32, and Sagar Gorkhe, 29, want to tell you: Gaja aadachi sangharshagatha (the story of our struggle behind the bars). The two members of Kabir Kala Manch, a Maharashtra-based cultural organisation, were released on bail in January this year, after having spent nearly four years in Arthur Road jail, Mumbai, on charges of being “Maoists”.

You can now find the duo in Pune’s slums, putting up an impromptu performance — with nothing more than a microphone and a duff (drum). A crowd of about hundred persons quickly gathers around them as they sing about the farmer distress spreading like wildfire in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and other parts of the country. “People in the city say they suffered due to the farmer agitation. But we wanted to tell them the reasons that are forcing poor farmers to rebel against the state,” says Gaichor.

The son of a security guard, Gaichor joined KKM while in college as it gave him an opportunity to protest against the caste inequalities through art and culture. He was a lecturer in a Pune college, when he — and several other members of the KKM — were booked by the state Anti-Terror Squad (ATS). Gorkhe, a poet and a singer, once lived in Kasewadi slums in Bhavani Peth, but had to move to Samata Nagar, Thergaon, with his family because of alleged police harassment. The case against him cut short his studies as an undergraduate student of sociology. “We were arrested on false charges. But the harassment in prison could not divert us from our goals. We have started performing again and the response is overwhelming,” says Sagar.

In April 2011, the ATS booked a bunch of KKM artists, including Deepak Dhengale, Siddharth Bhosale, Sachin Mali, Sheetal Sathe, Gaichor, Gorkhe and Santosh Shelar under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) for allegedly spreading the “Maoist ideology of armed struggle against the government”.

In January 2013, the Bombay High Court granted bail to seven of the accused in the case, saying that while they could be “sympathisers of Maoist philosophy”, “none can be said to be active members of the banned CPI-Maoist party”. On January 3, the SC granted bail to Gaichor, Gorkhe and Mali. The case is now pending in the Thane court.

Mali and his wife, Sathe left the group due to “ideological differences” and started a new cultural front, Navyan.

KKM now has about a dozen committed artists, who meet at least thrice a week to practise and rehearse. Be it issues like beef ban or demonetisation, they have consistently opposed the rising tide of Hindutva and policies of the BJP government. While in prison, Gaichor and Gorkhe composed about 120 songs and 70 poems on caste atrocities and gender inequality. They are planning to cut an album of their revolutionary songs.

The group performed in a rally recently organised by Prakash Ambedkar. “We often see police presence at our performances. Cops keep a watch on us, on our family members, our home and even on our sympathisers. We have to report to the police station once a week as per the conditions laid by the court while granting bail,” says Gaichor. While they have travelled to Mumbai, Jalgaon, Nashik, Ahmednagar, Aurangabad and performed almost every day during April-May, they are not allowed to travel outside state, or visit districts under Maoist influence.

“What boosts our morale is the support from our parents. They were broken when the police case was filed against us. But now they stand firm with us and encourage our siblings to join us,” says Gorkhe

Freedom Song

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सिर्फ गुनहगार ही नहीं ‘मैं ओर तुम’ – सब देश के गद्दार हैं #Poem

Rohit Prajapati


हर श्रमजीवी गुनहगार हैं ।

हर बेरोजगार गुनहगार हैं ।

हर गरीब गुनहगार हैं ।

हर बेघर गुनहगार हैं ।

हर शिक्षण से वंचित गुनहगार हैं ।

हर बाल मजदूर गुनहगार हैं ।

हर ‘शिक्षण के अधिकार’ की बात करनेवाला गुनहगार हैं ।

हर स्वास्थ्य सेवा से वंचित गुनहगार हैं ।

हर ‘स्वस्थ्य के अधिकार’ की बात करनेवाला गुनहगार हैं ।

हर ‘सूचना के अधिकार’ की बात करनेवाला गुनहगार हैं ।

हर लोकशाही की बात करनेवाला गुनहगार हैं ।

हर न्याय की बात करनेवाला गुनहगार हैं ।

हर सामाजिक सुरक्षा की बात करनेवाला गुनहगार हैं ।

हर सामाजिक न्याय की बात करनेवाला गुनहगार हैं ।

हर समानता की बात करनेवाला गुनहगार हैं ।

हर पर्यावरण के रक्षा की बात करनेवाला गुनहगार हैं ।

हर न्यायी समाज की बात करनेवाला गुनहगार हैं ।

हर दमन, शोषण के खिलाफ बोलनेवाला गुनहगार हैं ।

हर विनाशकारी सरकारी विकास के खिलाफ बोलनेवाला गुनहगार हैं ।

मैं ओर तुम – सब गुनहगार हैं ।

सिर्फ गुनहगार ही नहीं ‘मैं ओर तुम’ – सब देश के गद्दार हैं ।

तो फिर “देश के गद्दार” से “देश भक्त” बनने के लिए क्या करना होगा ।

जो “उनको” हो पसंद वही बात कहो तुम ।

वो “विनाश” को अगर “विकास” कहे तो “विकास” कहो तुम ।

वो “हिंसा” को अगर “शांति” कहे तो “शांति” कहो तुम ।

वो “स्त्री – पुरुष समानता” को अगर “ना” कहे तो “ना” कहो तुम ।

वो जो बात को “हा” कहे तो उस बात को “हा” कहो तुम ।

वो जो बात को “ना” कहे तो उस बात को “ना” कहो तुम ।

अगर वो “हिटलरशाही” को “लोकशाही” कहे तो “लोकशाही” कहो तुम ।

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Poetry must engage with the political

A new poetry collection by a TISS professor protests the global trend of rising intolerance and xenophobia

Dr Ashwani Kumar, a politi cal science professor at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, will release his second book of poetry at the Mumbai Poetry Festival this weekend. The collection, titled Banaras and The Other, is the result of two years of work and seeks to capture the truth of what he calls today’s “fractured times“. Born in what is now Jharkhand but was then part of Bihar, Kumar spoke to Mumbai Mirror about how Banaras became the theme of this collection, why poetry cannot divorce itself from the political, and the need for vernacular influences in English poetry in India.How did you come to pick Banaras as the theme for this collection?

I am an émigré, a social scientist by profession. I have lived mostly out of a suitcase while I spent time at TISS. In the last five, seven years, I went across India, and I started looking at what is called the biography of a city. In English poetry I find the one city that stands really tall is BombayMumbai.There is no other city. What I am trying to do is I am paying tribute to Bombay poets but I am also contesting the hegemonic presence of BombayMumbai in literature, especially in poetry. I tried to discover the city which could be the other, what could be the other of Mumbai? Mark Twain said Banaras is older than history but of late it has become not just a spiritual city, not just a religious city, but it is becoming a political fantasy.The book is actually about a political fiction, a political fantasy, which I was not able to construct here in Mumbai because this city has become a neo-liberal fantasy.It has become a desire economy, the commercial capital. Mumbai is not a spiritual city, it is not a religious city, though there are religious riots here. Mumbai has also become very majoritarian and if you look at Banaras, for the last four or five years it seems to be struggling against its own myth; against its own history and largely becoming a political capital rather than a religious capital and a spiritual capital of Hindus. It is also becoming a majoritarian space.That’s why most of the poems in this collection relate to Banaras.

How does your political science work influence your poetry?

At the subconscious level, I don’t think my training in political science matters, or my political activism. That space where I work out my poetry is pretty much autonomous of my political position or ideology. In the conscious world, certainly my training in politics, my political ideology, my activism, my experiences and my memories of political involvement do influence in between the lines and in the invisible spaces between poems.At that level, I must acknowledge that I am deeply political and a very committed political. So for me, and here I beg to differ with my fellow poets, I am really committed to poetry as a political project. For me writing poetry is not a spiritual experience or a romantic experience. For me writing poetry, is, as I said earlier, with regard to my first book (My Grandfather’s Imaginary Typewriter), being in politics is for me the writing project. That defines me. The day I stop being in politics or with politics, I would stop writing poetry. So it is a deeply political project.

Why be political through poetry and not through other forms of writing?

Poetry is more esoteric than prose.In fractured times, writing poetry is far more profound if you write in esoteric language. Prose is a far more dulling experience; it is prosaic. That is why, going back to Banaras, I didn’t want to capture it in a prosaic sense.I wanted to capture its truth and simultaneously capture the truths of our fractured and fissured times. The book is about rising intolerance, xenophobia, about fears and it is a conscious decision to resist and to protest. The whole tradition of English poetry, seems to have become dull and less engaged with the politics of the current times.And it has become more about being melodious, being more musical, an attempt to rearrange words in a certain craft. It has become more craft driven and less about real, passionate engagement with the politics of the times, of the truth of the times.

Aside from the politics, how do the poems reflect your experience of being an immigrant in the city?

English poetry in India is largely a Mumbaikar‘s dream. The aesthetics are of a Mumbaikar; they are trained in a particular way. Images are done in a particular way. What is happening is that English poetry does not have people originally writing in English but with vernacular flavour, with provincial worlds. These worlds have come to Mumbai more as a migrant worker sweating out, giving blood to the city, making the city richer, more prosperous, liveli er, they brought robustness to the city, but the city missed out because nobody came from these vernacular worlds writing English in original English. So as a Bihari coming to Mumbai and producing English poetry, especially in the towering and lingering shadows of Mumbai poets such as Gieve Patel and Adil Jussawala, I bring that provincial world, that vernacular flavour, to English poetry.

The Mumbai Poetry Festival will be held at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences on the 22nd and 23rd of April.Seven books of poetry will be released at the event.

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Silence Of The Graves ! #Poem


Life frightens me often
Death does not.
Dead men do not frighten me
I am ready to join any crowd
Every second night I celebrate with the dead
Playing cards and singing songs
Discussing about life that doesn’t matter
Waking up is a curse.
And life frightens me
Death does not.

Silence in life frightens me
Streets filled with walking corpses
In the prisons of their own minds
Sealed lips of the teachers
Knowledge not to be known
Feelings that are not felt
The smell of death on the living
The sound of breath of the dead
Vultures around the living
Cooking food on the funeral pyre
Life frightens me
But death does not.

And I am frightened
About the pretentious dead breathing
But death does not frighten me
Silence in the graves frighten me
The graves do not frighten me
Life does.

And when the dead bodies do not wake up
I keep telling myself
That it is safer to get drunk
On the silence of the graves.

K.P. Sasi is a film maker and political activist. He can be reached at [email protected]

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